Medea As A Heroine

In Euripides’ Medea, the main character of the same name is a controversial heroine. Medea takes whatever steps necessary to achieve what she believes is right and fair. She lived in a time when women were expected to sit in the shadows and take the hand that life dealt them without a blink of their eye. Medea took very radical steps to liberate herself and destroys the life of the man who ruined hers. She refused to accept the boundaries that a patriarchal society set upon her. Medea was a very wise and calculated woman who was brave enough to leave her homeland, along with everything she knew and loved, in order to follow her heart down the path of what she expected to be eternal happiness.

Medea, a princess and sorceress, was from a small island in the Black Sea called Colchis. She met her husband Jason when she used her powers to help him secure the Golden Fleece. It was during this time that she fell in love with him and decided to leave her family and home so that she could be with Jason. The fact that Medea was willing to leave all that she knew for Jason is very brave. Women in Medea’s time were normally given away to the men that they married. Medea, on the other hand, married Jason because she wanted to. That was a large risk for her to take and many women probably looked at it as a liberating and heroic act.

When Jason left Medea to marry Glauce, Medea was plagued with sadness and then with anger. The man she loved, the man that she gave up her life for, had betrayed her. In the patriarchal society that Medea lived in, it was not acceptable for a woman to protest any decision made by her husband. Medea went against all social standards and took revenge on Jason for the wrongs that he had committed. She was willing to take any chance and sacrifice even her most valued possessions. Medea knew that the best way to avenge the wrongs of Jason was to kill Glauce and the children. It was a huge sacrifice for Medea to kill the children that she loved, but she allowed herself to look past that love and only see her hate and contempt for Jason. Medea was willing to go against every rule that society set, so that her husband wouldn’t get away with leaving her for political reasons. Medea is once again a heroine.

If Medea were alive today, many people would not consider her a heroine. She found a way to satisfy her own needs, which were supposed to be secondary to her husband’s. Medea was a leader of women, and although the men may not have appreciated it, it was an act that was guaranteed to catch the attention of every oppressed woman alive at the time. Medea was a heroine ahead of her time.

Media: Character Analysis

Media was a very diverse character who possesses several characteristics which were unlike the average woman during her time. As a result of these characteristics she was treated differently by members of the society. Media was a different woman for several reasons; she possessed super natural powers , she was manipulative, vindictive, and she was driven by revenge. The life that Media lived and the situations she encountered, (one could say) were partly responsible for these characteristics and her actions.

Because Media was such a different woman people in her society were afraid of her, including men. As a result of this, before Jason, she never experienced being in love. When she finally experienced this type of love she went to no end for Jason. To protect Jason and her love for him she killed the beast guarding the Golden Fleece, she killed her brother, and she left her home, family and everything she knew for him. Most women would not have gone that far for love, especially women during her time; but Media was not your average woman. All of the things she did for Jason will come into play, and partly account for her actions at the end of the play.

Although Media killed and did things that people felt were wrong it is evident that through out the play that along with her other characteristics, she was a caring and loving person. The first time we are shown this is when we discover everything she did for Jason. If she did not love him she would not have done those things. We are also shown that Media can be a caring person by the love that she had for her children. Although she killed them in the end during the play she was a mother to her children, she showed affection to them, and she did think twice before she killed them. It is because Media was a caring and loving person that she did what she did. Her feelings were hurt and her heart was broken; and she did what she felt she had to do to hurt Jason for hurting her.

When Media Jason discovers Jasons plans to marry Creons daughter she was hurt deeply. But when Creon tells her that she was being exiled we see her hurt turn into vengeance. Because Media was a manipulative person she was only needed one day to plan and execute her plan to destroy Jason. Her plan was to leave Jason with nothing, the way she felt he left her. She killed his wife to be, her father and her children. Media killed everything Jason loved and everything that would a benefit to him to leave Jason with nothing.

She did all of these things, even killed her own children because she was hurt by love.
You must look at all of these things to explain Medias actions. Without knowing her background it would be very difficult to explain her extreme actions during this play. Its not enough to say her feelings were hurt and she lashed out, you have to look at, analyze, and breakdown, Medias life and experiences.

Medea: “Love and Deception”

There are many pieces of literature that may entail more than one theme throughout the story. The tragedy, Medea, by Euripides is very good example of this. Throughout this story, the themes of betrayal and love, revenge, and women’s rights arise. Euripides brings these points up to help the reader to realize that women are powerful also.

Betrayal is a very important theme throughout this story. Her husband Jason betrays Medea, when he abandons her and her children for another woman. Medea then realizes that Jason used her for her power and then dropped her when the chance to be more powerful arose. Medea’s nurse says:

“Jason has betrayed his sons and her,
takes the bed a royal bride,
Creon’s daughter-the king of Corinth’s.
Medea, spurned and desolate,
Breaks out in oaths,
Invokes the solemnest vows,
Calls on the gods to witness
How Jason has rewarded her. (P.19-26)

Jason left her for the princess of Corinth. Medea felt used and betrayed by the man that she was totally in love with. When Medea met Jason, he was on a voyage to possess the Golden Fleece. Medea goes against her father, her land, steals the Golden Fleece for Jason, commits murder, slows down her fathers army by killing her brother and laying out his body parts, all for the man she loved. And in returned, Jason betrays her for his own interest in power.

Revenge is another important theme in this tragedy. After Jason betrays Medea, her immediate response is revenge. Revenge on Jason for making a fool of her and leaving her and their children all alone. Jason has left Medea feeling lonely and heart broken. She wants Jason to feel the hurt and pain that she does. In revenge for what Jason has cause Medea to feel she kills his new bride and her father, an agonizing death of deadly poison. She then kills her own two sons. Medea is ashamed of what she has done to her sons, but does it to make Jason hurt the way she has. She says: Never again alive shall he see the sons he had by me, nor any child by this new bride of his poor girl, who has to die a wretched death, poisoned by me. (1.3.803-807)

Medea thinks that doing to Jason what he has done to her will make her feel better. She leaves Jason with no one. By killing her sons, there is no one left to carry on his name.

Euripides brings up the theme of women’s rights and the role of women is society. Euripides shows that not only men are powerful, but women are too. Medea is portrayed as a powerful, feared woman in Corinth. Creon is afraid of Medea; that is the reason for her banishment from Corinth. “Fear: no need to camouflage the fact,”(1.1.283-284).

This story teaches us many important moral lessons. As in many tragedies, these themes are exaggerated to get his point across clearly. All of these themes make up this Epic tale of Betrayal, deception, and women’s rights.

Medea’s Revenge

Medea, a play by the Greek playwright Euripides, explores the Greek-barbarian dichotomy through the character of Medea, a princess from the”barbarian”, or non-Greek, land of Colchis. Throughout the play, it become sevident to the reader that Medea is no ordinary woman by Greek standards.Central to the whole plot is Medea’s barbarian origins and how they are related to her actions. In this paper, I am attempting to answer questions such as how Medea behaves like a female, how she acts heroically from a male point of view,why she killed her children, if she could have achieved her goal without killing them, if the murder was motivated by her barbarian origins, and how she deals with the pain of killing her children.

As an introduction to the play, the status of women in Greek society should be briefly discussed. In general, women had very few rights. In the eyes of men, the main purposes of women in Greek society were to do house work such as cooking and cleaning, and bear children. They could not vote, own property, or choose a husband, and had to be represented by men in all legal proceedings. In some ways, these Greek women were almost like slaves. There is a definite relationship between this subordination of women and what transpires in the play. Jason decides that he wants to divorce Medea and marry the princess of Corinth, casting Medea aside as if they had never been married.

This sort of activity was acceptable by Greek standards, and shows the subordinate status of the woman, who had no say in any matter like this. Even though some of Medea’s actions were not typical of the average Greek woman, she still had attitudes and emotions common among women. For instance, Medea speaks out against women’s status in society, proclaiming that they have no choice of whom to marry, and that a man can rid themselves of a woman to get another whenever he wants, but a woman always has to “keep [her]eyes on one alone.” (231-247)

Though it is improbable that women went around openly saying things of this nature, it is likely that this attitude was shared by most or all Greek women. Later in the play, Medea debates with herself over whether or not to kill her children: “Poor heart, let them go, have pity upon the children.” (1057). This shows Medea’s motherly instincts in that she cares about her children. She struggles to decide if she can accomplish her goal of revenge against Jason without killing her children because she cares for them and knows they had no part in what their father did.

Unfortunately, Medea’s desire to exact revenge on Jason is greater than her love for her children, and at the end of the play she kills them. Medea was also a faithful wife to Jason.She talks about how she helped Jason in his quest for the Golden Fleece, then helped him escape, even killing her own brother. (476-483). The fact that she was willing to betray her own family to be with Jason shows her loyalty to him.Therefore, her anger at Jason over him divorcing her is understandable. On the other hand, Medea shows some heroic qualities that were not common among Greek women.

For example, Medea is willing to kill her own brother to be with Jason. In classical Greece, women and killing were probably not commonly linked. When she kills her brother, she shows that she is willing to do what is necessary to “get the job done”, in this case, to be with Jason.Secondly, she shows the courage to stand up to Jason. She believes that she has been cheated and betrayed by him. By planning ways to get back at him for cheating on her, she is standing up for what she believes, which in this case is that she was wronged by Jason, but in a larger sense, she is speaking out against the inferior status of women, which effectively allows Jason to discard Medea at will.

Third, she shows that she is clever and resourceful. Rather than use physical force to accomplish her plans, she uses her mind instead: “it is best to…make away with them by poison.” (384-385) While physical strength can be considered a heroic quality, cleverness can be as well. She does in fact poison the princess and the king of Corinth; interestingly, however, she does not poison them directly. “I will send the children with gifts…to the bride…and if she wears them upon her skin…she will die.” (784-788) This shows her cleverness because she is trying to keep from being linked to the crime, though everyone is able to figure out that she was responsible anyway.

In a way, though, she is almost anti-heroic because she is not doing the “dirty work” herself, which makes her appear somewhat cowardly. Finally, there is the revenge factor. Many times heroes were out for revenge against someone who did them or a friend wrong, and in this case Medea is no exception, since she wants to have revenge against Jason for divorcing her without just cause. There are two main reasons why Medea decides to kill her children. The first, and more obvious one, is that she feels that it is a perfect way to complement the death of the princess in getting revenge on Jason. When she tells the chorus of the plans to kill the children, they wonder if she has the heart to kill her children, to which she replies, “[y]es, for this is the best way to wound my husband.” (817).

This shows that she believes that by killing her children, she will basically ruin Jason’s life, effectively getting her revenge. The second reason for Medea killing her children has nothing to do with revenge. If she left her children with Jason, they would be living in a society that would look down upon them since they have partly barbarian origins.She did not want her children to have to suffer through that. Also, if her children are mocked for being outsiders, then this reflects badly on Medea, and she said that she does not want to give her enemies any reason to laugh at her.(781-782)

Since she does not want to leave her children with Jason, they really have no place else to where they could go, being barbarians in a Greek city:”[m]y children, there is none who can give them safety.” (793) For these two reasons, Medea decides that killing her children is the best way to accomplish her plan: getting revenge and keeping her children away from Jason. Whether or not Medea could have accomplished her goal without killing her children is debatable. On one hand, if we look at Medea’s objective only as seeking revenge against Jason, then she could have accomplished that without killing her children.

Killing the princess, Jason’s new wife, would cause enough grief for Jason so that her goal would be accomplished. We can infer that the death of Jason’s wife would be more damaging to him than the deaths of his children because Jason was going to let Medea take the children with her in to exile and did not try to keep them for himself. Therefore, once the princess was dead, killing the children, while it causes additional grief for Jason, really is not necessary. Even though Medea does not seem to believe it, killing her children probably causes more pain for her than Jason.

She just does not see it because she is so bent on revenge against Jason. On the other hand, if we define Medea’s objective in two parts, one being revenge, and the other to keep the children away, then it is possible that she had to kill her children. As for the revenge part, it was not necessary that she kill her children for the reasons just discussed. However, she may have needed to kill them to keep Jason from getting them. If Jason decided he wanted his children,there is not much Medea could do about it, other than kill them. Also, it is possible that she did not want to take them with her into exile because they could make it more difficult for her to reach Athens.

For whatever the reason,however, it is probable that she needed to kill her children to carry out her plan, since she accomplished two different goals through their deaths. The murder of Medea’s children is certainly caused in part by her barbarian origins. The main reason that Jason decides to divorce Medea to marry the princess is that he will have a higher status and more material wealth being married to the king’s daughter. (553-554) In other words, Jason believes that Medea’s barbarian origins are a burden to him, because there is a stigma attached to that. In his mind, having the chance to be rich outweighs the love of a barbarian wife.

Medea’s barbarian status is a burden to herself as well.Once separated from Jason, she becomes an outsider with no place to go, because the barbarians were not thought too highly of in Greek society. Had Medea not been a barbarian, it is likely that Jason would not have divorced her, and therefore, she would not have had to kill her children. But since she is a barbarian, this sets in motion the events of the play, and in her mind the best course of action is to kill her children. Just because she is non-Greek does not necessarily mean that her way of thinking would be different from the Greeks; in other words, her way of thinking did not necessarily cause her to kill her children.

Medea deals with the pain that the deaths of her children cause her quite well. She does this by convincing herself that her revenge against her husband was worth the price of her children’s death. When asked about killing her children, she replies, “So it must be. No compromise is possible.” (819)This shows that she is bent on revenge, and that she is justifying their deaths to get her revenge. However, she does struggle with her decision to kill them.She is sad that she must take their lives, but also tells herself that it is in their best interests, as evidenced by what she says to her children: “I wish you happiness, but not in this world.” (1073)

She does not seem to have a problem with killing her children once it comes time to actually carry out the act. Buther motherly instincts will not allow her to totally abandon her children after they are dead, as she decides to hold a yearly feast and sacrifice at their burial site. (1383-1384) But in the end, we can see that she dealt with the pain surprisingly well. Two main themes are present in Medea: Medea’s barbarian origins, and her desire for revenge against Jason. Her barbarian status is really what starts the actions of the play.

It is what makes her a less desirable wife to Jason than the princess, and causes him to leave her. This then leads to her thoughts of revenge against Jason, and her decision to kill her children as away to exact that revenge. As far as revenge goes, Medea is heroic in that she is standing up against an evil done to her. Throughout most of the play, she spends her time plotting her revenge against Jason, waiting until the right moment to unleash her plan. She uses her cleverness to trick Jason and the others into believing that she was not upset with him. In the end, we can see that Medea’s barbarian origins were a major factor in the play, and that Medea was no ordinary woman in Greek terms.

Medea: Study Guide

Authorial information

Euripedes lived from ca. 485 to ca. 406 B.C. making him younger thank Aeschylus and Sophocles, and making him the last of the great writers of tragedy in the golden age of Athens. His emphasis on human emotions and the psychology of individuals has proven more widely popular than philosophical beliefs shown in his older contemporary works. Medea, first produced in 431 B.C., features strong dramatic situations and is focused on the heroine Medea. Medea’s attitude of feminine pride and is a contradiction of tradition.

Author’s unique style

Euripedes was a revolutionary during his time, portraying women in a light never before seen in literature. He preferred to dignify women and show men as the villains. Euripedes also used the factor of the women’s role to show the weakness in humans and their believe systems. He would use the common people as characters rather then heroes, as shown in most epics.

Euripedes preferred situations that showed characters torn between conflicting desires. For instance in Medea, the plot to kill Medea’s two children attracts mixed feelings. Her great love for her sons causes her to question, which is greater, revenge or love. The violent obsessions prevail though, bringing the death of her sons and her acquiring revenge upon her husband.

Setting

Medea was based in 5th century B.C. Greece during an age when women were seen as inferior to men. Yet Medea is portrayed as the heroine and the as being more clever then the two male characters, Creon and Jason.

The story of Medea takes place in Corinth, in front on Medea’s house. Though many events do take place in other regions of the city, we only obtain knowledge of them through hearsay. Euripedes used this tool in theaters for the audience to visualize the actions instead of cheapening the experience with the few special affects available to them.

Theme

Medea had one obvious theme; hell hath no fury like that of a woman’s scorn. It is apparent from the opening statement of the Nurse that Medea is a very heartless towards anyone who has crossed her. Once Jason’s betrayal is exposed to Medea, she immediately starts to thinks of in a murderous mentality toward Jason. She goes through any means necessary to hurt Jason.

Characters

Medea was born under king Aetees of Colchis as a witch-princess. As a youth she met Jason the Argonaut and fell instantly in love, as was planned by the gods. This drove her to betray her family and homeland of Colchis by aiding Jason in the retrieval of the Golden Fleece. After this she was forced to leave with Jason, who she later wed. After many years though, Jason fell for another and crossed Medea in a way no one should. This led Medea to thirst for a revenge far more devious then many can imagine. She planned to kill her to children and Jason’s new found love. After succeeding in the destruction of Jason’s whole point in existence she fled in a dragon drawn chariot to Athens where she has been promised refuge.

The Nurse has been the person who took care of the motherly duties for Medea since her birth. Of course, because of this she knows about Medea’s evil tendencies and how vengeful she truly is. She also acts as a reference to the past, as seen in the beginning passage of the play she tells the background information needed to understand the events that follow. Her main goal throughout the work is to enhance Medea’s persona, but also to show true intentions as poetic justice and not as a malicious act.

Jason the Argonaut was the heir to the throne of Iolchus. His uncle, Pelias, sent him on a mission, to retrieve the Golden Fleece, a mission he knew Jason could not overcome. The turning point for Jason was that before he departed he prayed to Aphrodite. She then made the princess of Colchis, Medea, fall in love with Jason and she helped him succeed in his mission. They then returned to Greece, where years later Jason betrayed Medea by wedding a royal virgin. He hopes to persuade Medea to let him live in peace with his current bride. Medea flawed this plan when she viciously executed Jason’s wife, father-in-law, and both of her children bore from Jason.

Creon is the king of Corinth and father to Jason’s bride. He is first introduced through hearsay when the Tutor warns Medea’s Nurse that Creon plans to exile Medea. He actually appears to decree the ostracism of Medea for protection of himself and his daughter from Medea’s rage. This vain warning was countered by Medea’s pleas of mercy; in turn Creon granted her an extra day to acquire any provisions and a sanctuary in which she could survive in after being exiled. This was his downfall, the day extension gave Medea ample time to plan the assassination of Creon, his daughter, and her two sons.

Aeges is the king of Athens and the man who promises refuge to Medea under one condition; she travels by her own means. In return for this, Medea promises to reveal the secrets of why he is sterile. Although Aeges does not appear often through the play, he plays a very important role.

Quotes

The quote “But now, if you must stay, stay for this day alone. For in it you can do none of the things I fear.” made by Creon on page 12 shows irony since the reader knows that Medea plans to wrong Creon and his family in the following twenty-four hours.

On page 20 when Medea states “A curse, that is what I am to become to your house too.” shows foreshadowing. It has not yet exposed that fact that Medea plans to take the life of her two children, but it sends a message that she plans to hurt someone from her family, be it Jason or her children.

Medea’s last words to her children- “I wish you happiness, but not here in this world.”- expose her intentions and that they are, for lack of a better term, dead men walking. It is foreshadowing in a way even though we had future incentive that she plans to murder her children to gain vengeance on Jason. In a way, it is foreshadowing that this is the final time we will see them alive and that Medea will finally gain her vengeance.

Glossary

The following literary terms are used through Medea. With these literary devices, Medea was made to be one of the greatest Greek plays ever.

Tragedy is a story whose ending possesses a powerful feeling of sorrow and remorse, usually ending in the death of either one or more of the main characters or a great lose to the cause of the hero or heroine. Medea is a tragedy because of the great loses to both Medea and Jason at the end of the play. Although, this is what Medea planned, the death of her two sons and the fact that she was the murderer is saddening to the audience.

A tragic hero is a hero is which starts out at a high point, being very wealthy and/or admired, and slowly falls to the having nothing and being looked upon as lowly and worthless.

Foreshadowing is when the author reveals later parts of the story through hints and irony. Medea uses foreshadowing throughout the play. For instance, when King Creon says that he will extend Medea’s stay for a day because nothing drastic can be done in that short period shows foreshadowing in an ironic way. Since the reader knows what Medea plans they get the hint that she will, in fact, be able to perform her assault against the Jason in the allotted time.

Internal conflict is the battle between a character and his conscious or two conflicting moral beliefs. In Medea, there is the internal conflict of whether she can bring herself to kill her two sons or not. Although this will hurt Jason, Medea cares more for her children then Jason ever did. The conflicting arguments is if fulfilling her vengeance towards Jason is worth the lose she will endure.

Plot summary

To truly understand Medea the preceding story of Jason the Argonaut’s quest to retrieve the Golden Fleece from the land of Colchis. This quest was a fatal one for any brave adventurer. Because of this, he prays to Aphrodite for assistance in this dangerous deed.

Aphrodite offers her assistance by having the witch-princess Medea fall deeply in love with Jason. Therefore, she betrays her whole family and land by giving Jason safe access to the fleece and passage out of the land unscathed.

The play then sets off in Corinth, where Medea has just learned that Jason has left her for a royal virgin bride. With Medea’s evil nature, she immediately plans revenge upon her adulterous husband. Medea’s nurse and her sons’ tutor discuss the rumors of the possible ostracism of Medea from Corinth. The scene then transfers to Medea just as King Creon, kill of Corinth, arrives to order Medea’s banishment from the city. She pleas with Creon to give her a day extension, so she fulfill her plans against Jason and his future bride’s family.

After she cleverly convinces Creon to give her time to plan a sanctum and provisions for herself and her sons, she was able to finish her plans against the royal family. Once she left Creon and constructed her sinister plans, she needed a place to flee, but was unable to remember any allies after her assault against her homeland for Jason. Luckily, Aegeus, King of Athens and an old friend of Medea, was on a journey to seek advice from the oracle of Phoebus. He was questioning the oracle for guidance on childbirth so that he has an heir to his kingdom. Medea promises to reveal the secret to his childlessness if in return he promises her refuge after her banishment from Corinth. He agrees on the sole condition that she travels by her own means, asking him for no assistance.

Since Medea is now guaranteed a safe place to reside in, she initiates her attack upon Jason. She goes about her ploy very cleverly; first, weakening their defenses with kindness; then strikes maliciously. She calls for Jason and apologizes to him and begs him to let her bring gifts to his bride if order to win her favor so that her children could stay with him and not be exiled as well. After much arguing, Jason concedes his disagreements with Medea for the sake of his children. Little does her know what a fatal mistake it was.
The gifts Medea outfits for the bride are cursed by her magic to bestow a deadly poison upon the flesh and a ring of fire around the crown of whom ever adorns the fine woven gown and tiara. She sends her two sons to relay these two items to the princess, not knowing of the crimes they are assisting in.

Once the princess has worn the gifts she shows immediate approval and adores herself in her mirror. Suddenly she sends out a blood-curdling scream and the spells take their affect upon her. After hearing this her father, King Creon, rushes in to aid his fallen daughter. In turn too is taken by the spells placed upon the dress and tiara.

Jason rushes to confront Medea about the evil acts taken committed against his marital family. He returns to late though, hearing the death cries or both of his sons at the hands of their mother, Medea. Before he can become a witness to these atrocious acts, Medea boards the chariot of Helius, drawn by dragons, with the bodies of their children. She once again curses Jason to a life of suffering that will end in a pitifully death without any distinction. Medea flees to Athens where she lives until her death, and Jason dies from after being struck by a timber from his ship, dying without any distinction just as Medea said.